by Eve M.
By the time we moved in to our new house it was already the beginning of May. And since we had spent the previous 4.5 months in various different temporary housing situations (a long story best left aside for another blog), I was fully unprepared to plant a vegetable garden. No starts, no seedlings, not even much of a clue, really. And then began the work of unpacking and painting and fixing and arranging. Before we knew it, it was mid-June, and beginning to look like another year would pass us by without fulfilling our vision of finally having our own backyard vegetable garden.
Backyard vegetable gardens, sometimes called “Kitchen Gardens” are important for a number of reasons. First, growing food can have a major impact on a family budget, especially if, like our family, you buy a LOT of vegetables. Second, growing your own food helps to guarantee that the food you are feeding your family is free of pesticides, fertilizers, and genetically modified organisms. A backyard kitchen garden also helps to reduce fossil fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. You don’t have to drive anywhere to get your vegetables, and the vegetables are not brought to you via large trucks, planes, or other fossil fuel burning vehicles. When a local community grows more of its own food, it also helps to build food security. If there is a drought in another part of the country, or if for whatever reason the food cannot reach us over long distances, we have a local source of sustenance. Even setting a goal of having 10% of your families food come from local sources, such as your own garden or nearby farmshare, can greatly reduce fossil fuel consumption and build better local food security.
Vegetable gardens take a bit of planning and prep work. Generally by the time you get to mid-June, it’s a little late in the game to jump in. In fact most people I asked, suggested we wait until next year, and maybe look into yardsharing- helping someone out with their backyard garden and sharing in the harvest. But having our own vegetable garden is something that we had wanted to do every year. And every year there seemed to be some reason why it didn’t get done. And since this is the year we’ve decided to try to live our values more, we weren’t going to throw in the trowel just yet, so to speak.
The house we bought came with a very large vegetable garden plot, about 25 X 15 feet, and by mid –June it was already 3 foot high in weeds. Located at the end of our driveway, it was an unsightly depressing mess. Easily viewable from the street, it the first thing we laid eyes on every time we came home. It took me 4.5 hours to pull the weeds and till the damn thing, and I was sore for 3 full days after. The clock was ticking and we just didn’t know how in the world we were going to get this thing fenced and planted by solstice (which was our pre-determined plant it or get off the pot date).
Then I posted this ad to our local Timebank: “Looking for some help with our garden plot: basic fencing, building some garden beds, and figuring out what can be planted this late in the season and where to get good seedlings or plants.” That evening I had Timebank Member Kathy L. over for about 2.5 hours. She showed us how to measure out raised garden beds and then sat down with a stack of graph paper and helped us plan out where to plant the tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, beans, peppers, eggplant, and greens. The next day Chris, from My Kitchen Harvest came by in his truck and delivered our babies while my husband Ibrahim carefully measured out and leveled our six raised beds (for 12 rows). Later that afternoon Timebank member Donna C. came over with her sun hat and shovel and spent 2.5 hours digging, helping us get the fence up, and showing us how to keep our groundhog out. The next evening, on Solstice, at sunset, we planted all of our seedlings.
We promptly left the next morning for a week long vacation at the Jersey Shore. I know, I know, bad timing. But fortunately it rained nearly every evening that week, and when we came back we actually had tomatoes. I mean, real live green baby tomatoes that had grown in our own garden, for a whole week.
People keep asking me if we like our new house. And, I don’t know, I mean, it’s a house. There are some things I like OK. Some things I don’t like at all. The mortgage freaks me out to no end. But the one thing I really LOVE, the thing that really makes me feel that I am HOME, is our garden. It’s the first thing I see every day when I come home. And it makes me smile. Every. Single. Time. I love to see my daughter’s excitement and wonder with each new change- how large the zucchini plants got after a few days of rain, how the cucumbers started creeping up the trellis, and how the basil grew so tall we had to stake it like the tomatoes. I can’t wait for the day when we can actually start picking things and eating our own vegetables for dinner. Our harvest will come a little late this year, since we got off to a late start but we’ll get there, thanks to the amazing support we got from our friends and Transition Town and Timebank members. This garden, and the community that helped us build it, is truly what makes our house a home.